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Top five mistakes to avoid when specifying electronic product design

DSL’s Managing Director, Rory Dear, shares five “not so obvious” aspects that directors, project managers and engineers should consider to avoid costly mistakes.

1. Over specifying performance

“With panel PCs, you want just what the software needs to run, otherwise you’re just spending money on something that’s not being used.

“Our solution to that is our in-house evaluation systems. We have a large number of units which clients can borrow to run their software on to test it and see if it’s suitable, and invariably it is. This tends to save customers between £100-£400 per system, and if you’re using more than one system, that quickly adds up.”

2. Under specifying local environmental protection

“IP ratings found in electronic data sheets or specifications are designed to give reliable standards for determining the suitability of enclosures for conditions such as moisture, rain and dust. In other words, how waterproof or dustproof a product is.

“We have a conversation about this with customers early on in the process because there are various IP ratings that a system can be specified to. For example, you may be in a dusty factory but there’s no chance of water ingress, so you don’t need top-end waterproof systems.

“For example, if you only need something that’s splash proof but you’ve paid for something to be submersible up to a mile, you’ve wasted cost. It is also possible to have different parts of the same enclosure with different ratings, so we work with clients to define the differing levels of sealing effectiveness to give them exactly what’s necessary.”

3. Not using optical bonding when systems will be outside

“When you have a display and a touchscreen, there are two different panes of glass and there’s a gap of air between them. If you have these systems outside, where there is always some level of moisture in the air, you’ll get condensation in between the glass, even if it is sealed.

“Optical bonding injects glue between the two panes so it’s solid and this means there’s no opportunity for condensation to get inside the glass. It’s more than likely that your smartphone and tablet are optically bonded.

“It’s an aesthetical rather than a functional or reliability issue but it makes the system look poor. It’s a worth-while add-on for a panel PC, and DSL offers this service with no minimum order quantity.”

4. Paying out for expensive electrical installation when PoE is available

“Power over Ethernet (PoE) lets Ethernet cables supply power to network devices over the existing data connection. Historically, you would have to plug it in the wall AND plug it in the network port. But now, you can power a whole computer over a single cable provided it doesn’t require too much power and isn’t too high performance.

“The advantage is that you don’t need 240v (a dangerous voltage) sockets everywhere, fitted by a professional electrician, which is expensive to do. PoE is just a network cable and anyone can install that without certification and this could save £1000s.”

5. Not using high brightness displays for products used in direct sunlight

“This is one of those mistakes that people only become conscious of after the event.

“When you have a screen in direct sunlight, if you don’t have a high brightness display you won’t be able to see the screen clearly which will seriously impact the user’s ability to operate the product.

“At best, you may have to spend the time and money, around £100, to retrofit an ugly shade over the top. At worst, it’s back to the drawing board.

“And one final word of warning on brightness displays. Without auto-dim, (our systems have this and detect ambient light) when they are not in direct sunlight, for example at night, they may be too bright to read effectively. We offer high brightness displays as an optional feature so discuss this, and all of the other issues I’ve raised today, with your DSL account manager to get the right product to fit your exact needs.”